Fellaini’s Man United turnaround
Midfielder was often a scapegoat but captaincy shows Mourinho's full faith in the Belgian
LONDON — “Manchester United captain Marouane Fellaini” are five words Red Devils supporters never thought they would read this season.
However the towering Belgium international defied the odds to lead Jose Mourinho’s men to victory against a side managed by the man who brought him to Old Trafford.
Fellaini’s four years at United have been topsy-turvy to say the least with the former Everton man scoring crucial goals while also being booed by his home fans.
However Mourinho has put his full faith in the 6ft 5in midfielder by giving Fellaini the armband in the absence of Wayne Rooney, Chris Smalling and Juan Mata.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic captained his country and former sides with distinction while Ander Herrera has been tipped to take over the captaincy from Rooney on a full-time basis next season but Mourinho chose to make a point.
In fact, Mourinho has backed Fellaini from day one with the former Chelsea boss texting the box-to-box midfielder before last summer’s European Championship.
Fellaini said of his text from the United boss: “Mourinho contacted me by text to say welcome to United and to wish me a good Euro.
“As far as my future is concerned, I’m under contract with Manchester United. In addition, a great manager, Jose Mourinho, is arriving.
“He likes to win titles and I would be honoured and proud to work with him. Now it’s up to me to show he can trust me.”
Mourinho definitely trusts Fellaini. He has played 38 games so far this season and is likely to play a key role in United’s final eight Premier League encounters and two-legged Europa League quarter-final with Anderlecht.
Pundits tipped Mourinho to cash in on Fellaini after forking out a world record £86 million on Pogba but they have been proved wrong.
In fact, Mourinho has said Fellaini is Pogba’s “natural replacement” when the Frenchman is out of his starting line-up.
Fellaini was often made the scapegoat for United’s defeats under Moyes as the Belgian was the club’s only major signing in the summer of 2013.
Moyes and then newly-appointed executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward chased several big names — including Gareth Bale and Cesc Fabregas — but were left with just Fellaini on deadline day.
United sacked Moyes in April and Fellaini was left at Old Trafford with his future hanging in the balance just months after his £27.5million move.
Van Gaal utilised Fellaini’s strengths and his biggest goal for the club thus far came in United’s FA Cup semi-final win over Everton.
Fellaini scored the opening goal at Wembley against his former side before Anthony Martial netted a last-minute winner to send United into the final.
He also played a key role in United’s FA Cup final victory, which proved to be Van Gaal’s last game at the club, as his knock down to Mata led to United cancelling out Jason Puncheon’s goal.
His most disappointing moment came against Everton earlier this season when he conceded an 89th-minute penalty which Leighton Baines converted to claim a late point.
Sections of the Old Trafford faithful then booed Fellaini as he was brought on in the following game against Zorya but Mourinho still put his full support behind him.
Mourinho, in a clever ploy to back Fellaini, then allowed United’s No 27 to play the final minute of his side’s 1-0 win over Tottenham in what was another vote of confidence at Old Trafford.
Fellaini ran over to Mourinho and hugged his manager after his goal against Hull City in January to show his appreciation of the public backing.
Moyes would have been criticised for giving Fellaini the armband — even if it was just for one game — but Mourinho has the personality and charisma to deal with any criticism.
And it seems Fellaini has a similar mindset to his manager.
Marouane Fellaini dons the captain’s armband in the absence of skipper Wayne rooney in last Sunday’s match.